The Liturgy of Politics

Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor

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Pub Date 08 Sep 2020 | Archive Date 08 Oct 2020

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A generation of young Christians are weary of the political legacy they've inherited and hungry for a better approach. They're tired of seeing their faith tied to political battles they didn't start, and they're frustrated by the failures of leaders they thought they could trust. Kaitlyn Schiess grew up in this landscape, and understands it from the inside. Spiritual formation, and particularly a focus on formative practices, are experiencing a renaissance in Christian thinking—but these ideas are not often applied to the political sphere. In The Liturgy of Politics, Schiess shows that the church's politics are shaped by its habits and practices even when it's unaware of them. Schiess insists that the way out of our political morass is first to recognize the formative power of the political forces all around us, and then to recover historic Christian practices that shape us according to the truth of the gospel.

A generation of young Christians are weary of the political legacy they've inherited and hungry for a better approach. They're tired of seeing their faith tied to political battles they didn't start...

Advance Praise

"This is a clear-eyed look at the forces of spiritual formation inside and outside of church—and the political discipleship that American Christians too often accept without thinking about it. Schiess offers a powerful call to examine hidden assumptions and false idols, and to explore the whole two thousand years of Christian tradition in order to breathe new life into twenty-first-century evangelicalism."

-Molly Worthen, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of Apostles of Reason 

"This is a powerful challenge from a young heart and a mature mind. Schiess seems to touch every unexamined habit of Christian thought, work, leisure, and worship. With a wide sweep of life's liturgies and church liturgies, of spiritual formation and political responsibility, of Bible reading and communication with others, Schiess goes straight for the heart in relaxed conversation that packs a prophetic punch about our complacency, ignorance of Scripture, cultural conformity, and more. Her urgent message is for communities of Christian faith to repent and turn ourselves over entirely to God, as disciples of Jesus Christ have always been called to do. It is hard to imagine how this young woman has been able to read so widely and think so profoundly about so much of life. Here you'll find fresh insight and compelling hope that will renew your labors for the coming of God's kingdom. Young people, old folks like me, and everyone in between, read this book now!"

-James W. Skillen, author of The Good of Politics, former president of the Center for Public Justice 

"Liturgy is about worship and inner life. Kaitlyn Schiess takes a careful, hard look at how we do our politics and how we should do our politics, viewed from the inside not the outside. The difference is significant, and seeing it may give us a better heart for others. As a result, our politics may change us for the better as we seek to engage a world that needs to see what the gospel looks like in real-life practice."

-Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, author of commentaries on Luke and Ephesians 

"If all of us are formed by our practices, and politics is a kind of practice, how then are we as disciples of Jesus Christ being ordered through our political participation to the love of neighbor? That is the important question Kaitlyn Schiess has posed in The Liturgy of Politics. I won't spoil the book by giving you the answers here, but let's just say they're likely to catch you off guard a time or two. And if you take her cross-shaped account to heart, you might even find yourself confronted with a need both for repentance and a vision of hope. I think Schiess's book will be widely read and just as widely appreciated."

-Matthew Arbo, associate professor of theological studies and director of the Center for Faith and Public Life, Oklahoma Baptist University 

"How should Christians vote? In the last several years, this question has become a dividing line in the church, polarizing the people of God into opposing camps and fracturing the Christian community along worldly fault lines. With wisdom beyond her years, Kaitlyn Schiess recognizes the folly of centering on this question and instead focuses on a better one: What sort of people are we being formed into? With biblical grounding, theological depth, and the spiritual urgency of a next-generation leader, Kaitlyn lays the groundwork for a better, more faithful approach to political engagement. After finishing this book, here is the one thing I know for sure: we have not seen the last of Kaitlyn."

-Sharon Hodde Miller, author of Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked And How God Calls Us to More 

"What hath the upper room to do with the Oval Office? What does the Spirit have to do with the Senate? In The Liturgy of Politics, Kaitlyn Schiess offers an insightful framework for thinking about these two at-first-glance antagonists. Many evangelicals nowadays seem to be suffering from worldview dissonance—shunning political engagement altogether because it's 'dirty work' or shirking genuine and careful participation because dogmatism and bumper-sticker responses roll off the tongue more easily. Schiess offers a careful and sustained via media that emphasizes the movement, timing, and practices of the church, which instill a vision for gathering community and reforming political participation. With fluent brilliance, Schiess does this by looking to ancient and contemporary voices such as Augustine, Karl Barth, and Jamie Smith. She reminds us that every time we enter that dusty, smelly building with well-worn pews, we throw ourselves at the right way to move and live and have our being—in shared spaces with our neighbor in the world!"

-Kyle David Bennett, associate professor of philosophy and chair of the theology and philosophy department at Caldwell University 

"The Liturgy of Politics is a much-needed discourse on effective leadership in politics and caring for our culture. I have been following Kaitlyn's important voice for some time now, and I am delighted to have her contribution for our journey toward the New."

-Makoto Fujimura, artist, author of Culture Care and Silence and Beauty 

"Many young evangelicals—weary of politics and the culture wars—have begun to disengage from political life. Tired of the narrow-minded politics of the right and left, these evangelicals long for something more—something beyond ideology and sound bites. Katelyn Schiess has answered her generation's call. Drawing on Scripture, history, and contemporary political theology, she offers a robust and accessible political ethic that avoids the old pitfalls of the Christian right and left. She deftly explores how worship and spiritual disciplines can not only liberate evangelicals from destructive political ideologies but actively move them into God's alternative political mission of public justice and shalom."

-Matthew Kaemingk, assistant professor of Christian ethics and associate dean, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This is a clear-eyed look at the forces of spiritual formation inside and outside of church—and the political discipleship that American Christians too often accept without thinking about it...

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Featured Reviews

My review is from reading a pre-launch version of this book that I received from NetGalley. The author, Kaitlyn Schiess, gives us a very good snapshot of how some evangelicals have, "solidified a particular approach to political engagement largely based in a partnership with the Republican party." Her argument is backed up by other authors who have written on this subject many of which I have read. As a result of this alliance she writes, "The idol demanded more and more of us until we abdicated our true identities for a false one." Through her book Kaitlyn Schiess establishes the important connection between spiritual formation and politics. She does this by using James K. A. Smith's thinking regarding liturgies that form us. Until the invention of the printing press and the reduction in the cost of books much of the education of Church congregations occurred through the liturgies they developed. She looks at ways liturgies can be used to inform us about our political lives in dangerous or biblically motivated ways. I personally was informed, moved, and validated in reading this book. The chapters that were particularly moving and informative to me were where the subject matter informed us about the need to be a part of a community of believers, the Church as a political training ground, spiritual disciplines as political formation, reading politics with Augustine, and eschatology and political formation. All of her chapters were well thought out and written, but these exposed areas in my life that are in need of growth. I am 71 years old, attended Bible College and Seminary, and love to read, learn and grow and I am glad that she listened to her professor that told her if she waited until she was 100 percent ready, she would never write it, and to all the other people who have had an influence in her growth. To use a phrase from her Acknowledgments, "I am thankful beyond words" that she used her gifts to write this book. I will be reading it again and highly recommend it as addition to your library. As a final note: This book has been provided courtesy of InterVarsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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I found The Liturgy of Politics to be a very worthwhile read, particularly in these days of global pandemic that are also leading up to a presidential election in the United States. It is sufficiently academic without being dry or trite, but does not lose its tenderness for people's day-to-day lives. If you're interested at all in why Christians should become or remain involved in politics - or if you're convinced that they shouldn't! - definitely pick this up.

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The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor by Kaitlyn Schiess confronts the dualism of Christians who shunt their faith and politics into different arenas of their lives and offers a robust framework for embracing the ways our faith should inform our politics and recognizing the dangerous ways our politics forms our faith. She boldly critiques both conservative Christians who have trusted the Republican Party to the detriment of their witness and progressive Christians whose over correction has swung the pendulum into dangerous territory, challenging the Church instead to be a training ground for political engagement that transcends partisanship. While little of Schiess’s observations and challenges for Christians are brand new, I believe they have been packaged for the first time in a way that is accessible to a wide variety of lay Christians without downplaying the true complexity of engaging in politics in a theologically robust way. This is a book I think every Christian needs to read, and it’s release in a presidential election year is especially timely.

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